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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

ZIMBABWE: Tsvangirai takes the stand in treason trial

JOHANNESBURG, 19 January 2004 (IRIN) - Zimbabwe's main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Monday took the witness stand for the first time in his 11-month treason trial and denied charges that he had plotted to assassinate President Robert Mugabe.

Court proceedings got underway on Monday after presiding Judge Paddington Garwe granted a prosecution motion to partially amend the charges against Tsvangirai.

The charges now include allegations that Tsvangirai had begun planning transitional arrangements and discussed military support after Mugabe's intended assassination.

"We were astounded that Judge Garwe had granted the motion, but maintain that these new charges are just as spurious as the initial charge. At no point was Mr Tsvangirai involved in a plot to eliminate President Mugabe or engage in any discussion regarding military support," David Coltart, legal advisor to the opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), told IRIN.

The state's case hinges on a videotape of a meeting in Canada between Tsvangirai and political consultant Ari Ben-Menashe, which, it says, captured Tsvangirai discussing Mugabe's "elimination".

The opposition leader has denied the claims, arguing that the video was doctored to discredit the MDC and "entrap" him.

Tsvangirai faces a possible death sentence if convicted of the plot. The trial resumes on Tuesday.

 

Themes: (IRIN) Governance, (IRIN) Human Rights

[ENDS]

 

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